No Changes Despite Overwhelming Public Criticism of Moosehead Plan
AUGUSTA, March 18, 2008 —Maine’s two leading environmental organizations said today that Plum Creek, the nation’s largest commercial landowner, has submitted a post-hearing brief that dismissed long lists of concerns raised during hundreds of hours of public testimony by Maine residents and technical experts about Plum Creek’s plan to develop the Moosehead Lake region.
The executive directors of Maine Audubon and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) provided their analysis of the hearing record and public comments on Plum Creek’s proposal at a news conference in Augusta.
In January, at the conclusion of four day-long public comment sessions and four weeks of a formal intervenor hearing, Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) asked Plum Creek and all intervenors to identify “deficiencies” in the company’s Moosehead development proposal and to suggest “how these deficiencies are resolvable.”
But despite extensive testimony and widespread concerns expressed repeatedly by Maine citizens, scientists, organizations, and state agencies, Seattle-based Plum Creek has filed a 156-page post-hearing brief that does not acknowledge even one deficiency or suggest even one change in its plan.
“We have just witnessed one of the most extensive proceedings ever in Maine, on the largest development proposal in Maine history, with major issues, concerns and evidence put forth by thousands of citizens, experts and organizations, yet Plum Creek, astonishingly, has responded that it sees no need to improve its plan,” said Brownie Carson, NRCM executive director.
“The company’s 156-page post-hearing document dismisses the need to change anything in its entire massive proposal. Nothing. Not a single house lot. Not a single acre of proposed rezoning. Plum Creek seems to think its plan is perfect.”
Maine Audubon and NRCM cited more than 50 specific concerns with Plum Creek’s proposal that were raised repeatedly during weeks of hearings and in public comments.
“It became clear during the four weeks of formal intervenor hearings that the multiple deficiencies in Plum Creek’s plan mean it does not meet LURC criteria,” said Kevin Carley, Maine Audubon executive director.
“When experts on conservation and tourism economies, including scientists from state and national natural resource agencies and organizations, submitted testimony and were extensively cross-examined about their concerns, they documented the many ways that Plum Creek’s plan could permanently harm the wildlife, natural character, and scenic beauty of the Moosehead Lake region. We did not expect Plum Creek to dismiss their conclusions, nor the concerns of Maine people.”
The two organizations also revealed today that more than 2,000 written comments have been submitted to LURC expressing concerns with Plum Creek’s plan, compared with fewer than 100 comments in support of the plan. The organizations believe this is the largest number of citizens who have testified or written personal letters in opposition to a project before LURC in Maine history.
“Apparently, Plum Creek decided to ignore testimony and evidence presented at all of the public hearings as well as more than 2,000 real, heartfelt, well-researched personal letters, written at kitchen tables across the state and beyond,” said Carson.
“It seems Plum Creek didn’t hear the hundreds of citizens and experts who raised concerns about the extent, types and locations proposed for developments,” he said. “Plum Creek didn’t hear about the damage their proposal would inflict on wildlife, or how it would harm water quality, remote recreation, peace and quiet, locally owned businesses, or the area’s outstanding scenery.”
“Given the deep and varied concerns that have been raised by so many people, organizations and agencies, it’s an arrogant move by Plum Creek to not acknowledge one deficiency of their plan,” said former LURC Commissioner Caroline Pryor. “LURC now has the difficult task of analyzing and weighing all the information in the public record, and deciding whether this development plan, as proposed, meets its criteria.”
“The concerns raised by Maine residents including myself were raised after much thought, research and due diligence,” said Ruth McLaughlin of Greenville. “And, my concerns amounted to much more than an ‘emotional’ appeal for nature! There are still far too many unanswered questions that, if not addressed now, will greatly affect Maine’s citizens. Therefore, I am deeply disturbed that all of my questions and those of thousands across the state have been dismissed by Plum Creek. I truly hope LURC doesn’t do the same.”
“We have many serious concerns about Plum Creek’s development proposal including the fact that it promotes too much development in the wrong areas and it lacks meaningful conservation,” said Bob Guethlen of Tomhegan Township. “Unless Plum Creek were to seriously modify the plan to deal with these issues, the plan should be rejected.”
“Our hope is that LURC will require the company to make substantial changes to the amount and location of developments, and the amount, location and quality of conservation, and not just tinker around the edges,” said Diane Guethlen of Tomhegan Township. “Moosehead is a special place that should be protected; if it is not, it would set a horrible precedent for the rest of LURC’s 10 million plus acres.”
“People hire a river guide because we promise an adventure where they won’t see a road, a dock, a golf course, a jet ski, or a trophy home,” said Maine River Guide, Lisa deHart. “None of our future guests are going to pay money to paddle around a corner and see a trophy home in the viewscape. I agree that the Moosehead Lake region has the potential to create jobs…mine is one of them. One of many of the guide jobs that are created and maintained in that area. I can make a better living and would much prefer to work as a river guide than as a waitress at a golf course or a Plum Creek resort.”
Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission in late January completed 15 days of technical hearings and four days of public hearings. Plum Creek and intervenors to the proceeding filed post-hearing briefs on March 7th, and the public comment period closed on March 14th. Plum Creek’s plan calls for 2,300 housing units, two resorts, commercial centers, and other proposed developments in the Moosehead Lake region.